Peers give up lobbying jobs in advance of Lords reforms

Members could be banned from advising businesses on workings of Parliament
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Indy Politics

Peers have already begun surrendering lucrative lobbying jobs ahead of the introduction of sweeping reforms designed to clean up the Lords and restore its tarnished reputation, The Independent can reveal.

All peers would be banned from advising businesses on the workings of Parliament under recommendations published last week. The new rules were suggested by an inquiry set up in the wake of the "Lords for hire" row, which saw two peers suspended for their apparent willingness to try to change laws in exchange for cash.

Eight peers could be forced to give up positions as a result of new rules. It has emerged that two have already decided to terminate their contracts ahead of the changes, which are expected to be voted through later this month.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, a Labour peer, has ended his long-running position as a senior strategy adviser for the consultancy firm Accenture. The position had earned him £36,000 a year, as well as expenses. The two parties agreed to terminate the contract by mutual consent. Lord Lipsey, who had acted as a parliamentary consultant for the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, resigned the £25,000-a-year post last week upon realising it would be banned under the reforms. "I have actually resigned my position as the new rules would clearly outlaw it," he said.

Lord Brooke said that changes did not go far enough in clamping down on conflicts of interest. He will use a debate on the reforms, recommended following an inquiry by Lord Eames, to demand a further tightening of the rules to shine the light on directorships held by many peers. "There are a very substantial number of them who speak frequently and on many interests that I would class as being very close to their own interests," he said.

Peers will be under huge pressure to accept the changes from party leaders. However, some Lords are furious at the promised reforms, claiming that the recommendations from Lord Eames were "ridiculous" and should be opposed. "It will be voted down by many of my colleagues," said one peer, who will be affected by the tighter rules.

A similar clampdown on the generous Lords expenses system is also due to be published before the end of the month. A review by the Senior Salaries Review Body is expected to slash the amount peers can claim for staying in London overnight and ban claims on mortgage costs. Receipts will also be required for the first time.

On the House: Lax rules for Lords

*While Sir Christopher Kelly's inquiry has many MPs spitting blood over a new regime that looks set to deprive them of tens of thousands of pounds in expenses, down the corridor, peers are still subject to a more lax system. Those living away from home can claim on mortgages, while there is no clear definition of what constitutes their "main home", meaning the system is ripe for abuse. A "subsistence allowance" of £160 is handed to them each day they turn up at the House of Lords and looks set to survive a review of their allowances currently being carried out by the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB). MPs are only likely to be able to claim £120 a night for a hotel room in London after the next election, while peers can currently claim £174 a night for slightly grander surroundings. The early signs are that even under the SSRB reforms, they may still be able to claim £20 a night more than their elected counterparts.